Hooray for Speculaas!
Uh, hooray for what? Long before Ben and Jerry’s introduced Spectacular Speculoos Ice Cream, Europeans were enjoying this delicious little spiced cookie. According to Sweettoothdesign.com, a Speculaas is a spiced shortbread cookie that originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century. The cookies were made to celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day in December, so were originally made in the form of St. Nicholas. Today, we usually see them in the shape of windmills. There are several ways to spell them based on where they’ve come from. In addition to the Dutch Speculaas, in Germany, they’re known as Spekulatius, in France they’re known as Speculoos, and in the US, we generally recognize them as Windmill cookies. Click here to go to the Sweet Tooth Design Company site.
The name Speculaas is thought to come from the Latin word “speculum”, meaning mirror and refers to the images created by the wooden molds used to press the cookies. Although I’m not Dutch, I’ve made Speculaas for years, and I have to admit - the wooden stamps are not easy to use. Usually, I end up making them “unstamped”(far less frustrating and just as tasty!). Still, I bought two beautiful hand-carved wooden molds years ago from Cookiemold.com and display them since they are truly works of art. Click here to go to the site.
So, what’s in a Speculaas or Speculoos or whatever? Typically, they’re made with cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and may also include nutmeg, anise seed, coriander or cardamom. While there are many variations, I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens years ago. Since then, I've adapted it a bit, which is the recipe below. Since it's known as a holiday cookie, I thought now would be a great time to share that recipe. Happy holidays! Or as the Dutch say Prettige feestdagen!
1 cup butter OR margarine 2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar 1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves ½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup finely chopped blanched almonds ½ teaspoon ginger
1 tsp vanilla ¼ teaspoon salt
In a bowl, beat butter 30 seconds or till softened. Add half of the flour, brown sugar, egg, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and vanilla and ¼ teaspoon salt. Beat well. Beat in remaining flour and chopped almonds. Divide in half.
On lightly floured surface roll each portion to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Decorate if desired. Place 1 inch apaprt o grease cookie sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven 8 to 10 minutes or till browned. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Remove; cool. Frost if desired.